Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why I practice?

Brian and Dean inside the cove

The wind was forecast to blow at 40 kms/hr with gusts to 60. So, five of us met at St. Philips to practice paddling in the wind and waves. When we got there we were greeted by numerous whitecaps and wind at a constant 45 (as measured at the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club I found out after).

We don't generally paddle in those kinds of conditions on purpose for a day paddle unless you're in the mood for a slog. Why practice then?

Around here the weather can change in no time. What might start off as a calm day on the water can turn into a challenge at the drop of a hat. When that happens, I don't want to learn to deal with the conditions for the first time. By spending time in wind and waves in controlled conditions, when I'm caught in it for real, I'll already know what it feels like with no need to panic.

Brian and Dean exposed

St Philips is a cove on the east side of Conception Bay. With the prevailing southwest winds it allows paddlers to experience conditions at their own comfort level. Stay inside of the point of land on the left and get less sea state; paddle out past the point and face the full force of the wind that with a fetch of 30 or more kilometres creates some challenging conditions.

Stan paddling into the open

Out past the protection of the point the waves were close to 2 metres high. We'd paddle out so far, turn and surf back into the cove. It was impressive once ya got turned around for the surf ride in. As the waves passed under the boat it left ya on what looked like a mountain of water with the trough close to 2 metres below the bow.

Brain catching some surf rides

The wind created waves of 1 metre to 2 metres out in the open. At times Brian, Dean and Stan would disapper in the waves completely. The 1 metre waves inside the cove seemed to give better surf rides.

Brian test driving my Nordkapp

After paddling around for a couple of hours I asked Brian if he'd like to test drive my Nordkapp for a bit. So we exchanged boats and I got in his strip built boat. The conclusion? Brian agreed with me that the Nordkapp was harder to turn into the wind than his, good stability and great to surf. My conclusion on his - though not set up for me (foot and thigh braces) there is much to admire about his kayak. It turns on a dime even without edging, the bow is lower and therefore doesn't catch the wind like the Nordkapp and paddles at good speed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tempus fugit

Seems like yesterday

Its coming as a shock to me that we're already near the end of August. This picture really drives it home that time flies and summer is coming to a close, for two reasons: icebergs are a feature of spring here; it feels like yesterday we were chasing them and Stan was still in his poly boat; he's been in his black Nordkapp for months.

OK, so August is coming to a close but we'll have beautiful fall paddling for months. The beauty of fall paddling is that the water has warmed and the air temp has moderated from summer heat. And, I'm looking forward to capturing fall colours.

Time flies, can't do anything about it. I guess its just a matter of accepting that and taking advantage of what the season provides.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Beating Bill

Headed towards Cape St. Francis

Hurricane Bill was busy churning in the Atlantic in the area of Bermuda today and forecast to hit Newfoundland Sunday night Monday morning. It'll be downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hits us but it'll still be too windy to paddle, maybe for a couple of days.

We decided to beat Bill to the punch and just get out on the water. There was no set plan. We put-in in Bauline and headed north towards Cape St. Francis for a while and then decided to turn around and paddle south in case the forecasted wind kicked up, which it did. A paddle back to the put-in then would be in following seas.

We saw a minke whale, the spout of a suspected fin whale, a huge sunfish and a couple of eagles.

Gimme shelter

After turning back short of Cape St. Francis we paddled past Bauline, where we put in, and on towards Portugal Cove. The wind came up so we nicked into a few sheltered spots for a break. It wasn't a heavy wind but the respite was still welcomed.

Brian checks out a cleft in the rocks

The rocks along the east side of Conception Bay north of St. Philips are known as the Harbour Main volcanics. They form massive cliffs and are the oldest rocks on the Avalon Peninsula. They were formed in a volcanic archipelago something like those in the current ring of fire in the Pacific.

Because they are so massive, there are no caves or beaches along this shore. Here a likely fault has weakened the rock where the sea has worn a cleft in the cliffs.

Cleanliness is next to godliness

Derrick getting a shower of fresh water. It was warm today 25 C and 30 with the humidex. A chance to cool off in the fresh water was a treat.

At the falls

Last fall Stan and I paddled north from St. Philips and Portugal Cove. We turned back at these falls at Big Freshwater Cove. Today we paddled south from Bauline to the falls so I've closed that part of this shore in Conception Bay. Missed ya today Stan.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On personal faults

Brian and Derrick - popping in and out of view in the swell

Faults, I have many. A lot of them I've been made aware of throughout almost 33 years of marriage *lol* but some I recognize myself. One is that I'm a creature of habit. I like routine and predictability, I like to plan my days. Tuesday I go to Topsail Pond to practice strokes etc. Wednesdays I go to the gym and Thursday I practice kayak stuff at St Philips, hopefully in conditions.

Yesterday evening (Tuesday) Derrick called and asked if I was interested in a paddle on Wednesday, my gym day. I thought for a second and said sure. Its not that I don't do things on the spur of the moment, just not often. Its something I should do more often and I'm working on it.

Today I was glad that I was flexible because we had an excellent paddle from Bay Bulls to Witless Bay. I'll go to the gym tomorrow and pay my dues there for a good time today.

The swell gets bigger

The swell in Bay Bulls harbour where we put in gave us an indication that the swell outside was going to be in the 2 metre range. When we got outside we found a sizeable swell with moderately confused seas due to waves rebounding off the cliffs. It was fun.

Brian in Bay Bulls harbour

Derrick in Bay Bulls harbour

Friday, August 14, 2009

Too much of a good thing?

Neville in Bell Island sunset

Thursday evening practice at St. Philips was the first time I've been in the boat in a week. That's the first time I've gone a week like that since April.

I've had a great paddling season so far, so much so, dare I say it, I just had enough and needed a break. A lot of time in the boat coupled with a busy day-to-day agenda has run the batteries down so some downtime was needed.

That raises the question: can you have too much of a good thing? I remember getting an allowance of 25 cents as a child. That bought a softdrink, bag of potato chips and a chocolate bar once a week. Contrast that with today when kids drink pop like water. I looked forward to my weekly treat whereas today I doubt kids see these things as "treats".

After a week, Thursday evening at St. Philips was a treat as was the setting sun. Its a fine balancing act - spending enough time in the boat to improve and still enjoy the experience.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tree rings

Contorted rocks in a small cave

Bell Island is a rock in the middle of Conception Bay made up of Ordovician age siltstones and sandstones. The sedimentary beds were laid down in a shallow sea between 480 - 444 million years ago.

Sedimentary rocks can tell a story just like tree rings. Tree rings can tell us something about the environmental conditions when the tree was growing. Each year as a tree grows it lays down a new layer which we see in cross-section as tree rings. A hot dry growing season will result in a narrow ring whereas a wet season will result in a wider annual growth ring.

The same can be said about sedimentary rocks except that the composition of sedimentary beds tells us something about the depth of the sea where the beds were laid down. Sediments laid down in a shallow sea will be coarser than those laid down in deeper water. This is because as water deepens it loses its ability to transport sediments and the particles drop out. Therefore, sandstones are laid down in shallower water than siltstones because siltstone particles are finer.

Each layer of rocks in the cliff faces of Bell Island tells us that environmental conditions changed, not on an annual basis but over a period of millions of years. Knowing something about the geology of an area adds to the interest of my paddles.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pictures of Stone's Cove for Micheal

Stan paddles into Stone's Cove

Micheal Bond left a comment on an earlier post on Stone's Cove that I didn't read until today. Sorry Micheal.

Micheal's ancestors were from Stone's Cove. He enjoyed the pictures and wanted to get copies. You're welcome to take what pictures you want Micheal and here are a few more you can also have. Its just a matter of right clicking on the picture and save.

I found it amazing to have gotten a comment from Micheal as the families who resettled from Stone's Cove and the hundreds of resettled communities in Newfoundland must be blown all over the globe just like flower seed.

I hope to go back and hopefully spend more time on the ground. Let me know you got the pictures Micheal or if you have any trouble.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Around the Belle of the Bay

And they're off

Bell Island is a rock in the middle of Conception Bay that's about 26 kms around. Its been on my list of things to do - a circumnavigation. The biggest concern is the swell that can kick up on the western side of the island so its a good idea to pick your day, and, today was the day. Practically no wind all day and warm temperatures. Its not a long paddle as much as its one of those things that's just there and has to be done for the sake of doing it.

Brian, Dean, Derrick and I took the ferry from Portugal Cove to the Beach on Bell Island where we put-in and started paddling north. Brian had done this once before but for the rest of us it was going to be a first.

Bell Island is a rock towering out of the water that's 200 feet high in places. In that sense its hard to find views that are not just paddlers going by walls of rock but I hope I got a few that are interesting.

Brian at Redmond's Head

Rounding the north end of Bell Island we had a great paddle in some gentle swell all the way along the shore in the distance. Every now and then we saw a minke whale off to our right and soon after that a motor boat that was chasing it around the bay. Some people have no common sense.

Derrick looks swell in the swell

The rocks on the west side of Bell Island slope gently out under the water that makes for an interesting sea state. Even a small swell builds to a fine size once it reaches the shallower water.

Ochre Pit Cove

This part of the west side of Bell Island was wave worn but no caves. The reddish rocks looked like they had a high hematite content that would make wearing of deep caves into the cliffs very difficult.

Dwarfed by the Bell of Bell Island

Brain, Dean and Derrick are dwarfed by "The Bell" for which Bell Island is named.

Pit stop

Front Bell Cove was our lunch spot today. We sat on the beach and watched a minke whale cruise past us in the bay while we munched on the lunch offering. We also had some discussion as to whether this sea stack was called "The Clapper". I don't know but its a fine piece of rock.

Dark Hole Cove

Refreshed and fueled up after lunch break we made off for the ferry terminal where we started the day. This was in a small cove that's called Dark Hole Cove on the map. There wasn't much of a cove but and interesting sea stack.


The water was oily calm and very reflective on the eastern side of Bell Island shortly after lunch break. Here we were on our way back to the ferry terminal and full circle. Derrick opened her up and Brain and myself had to pour it on too to keep up. Dean in the dry suit overheated and paddled his own pace.

We paddled approximately 26 kms in 4 hours paddle time. A very enjoyable paddle guys and a first for Derrick, Dean and myself - a circumnavigation of Bell Island.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Search for whales

Nordkapps at Cape Broyle Head

Clyde, Stan and I were in Cape Broyle today in search of whales where we paddled around the harbour and around the headland almost into Calvert. We were lucky because we saw a whale three times. I was unlucky because each time I couldn't get a picture. The first surfaced and dove as it crossed our bows, the second broached about .5 km away and the third passed by me about 3 metres to my left. The wind had come up and I was more preoccupied with staying upright than getting a picture of number three.

So, it was a good day. Clyde rented a Nordkapp and had great conditions to take a test drive. Back on the beach he just raved and raved about the boat. We know Clyde!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Thank you technology

Map of paddle area from Harbour Mille to Stone's Cove in Fortune Bay

Last Saturday Stan and I did an overnight kayak camping trip to Stone's Cove, a resettled community featured in Scott Walden's book "Places Lost".

The coast down to Stone's Cove is very exposed so the weather had to cooperate. Its best to be prepared if paddling is such areas even when the weather is predicted to be good.

Topographic and marine charts are available for planning the paddle but they don't tell the whole story. You get an idea of the topography by examining the contour lines and water depth from the marine chart. They don't however always give you a lot of information on take outs should the need arise.

Google Earth to the rescue. I was luck that there were high resolution satellite images available for the area. Failing that, there are air photos available at Government offices with lands responsibility.

Satellite image of Friar Beach and Lobster Cove area

On Google Earth I printed a high level shot of the map area above. Then I zoomed in to the highest resolution available for the area and marked in the beaches on the high level shot were we could take out if we had to.

While the topographic map implied an exposed coast with few take outs, the satellite image showed lots of beaches along the planned route.

Lobster Cove where we camped for the night is the cove at the top left.

Lunch beach at Friar Head

And, this is the actual beach which shows that the satellite shot didn't lie. Its the long stretch of beach at the bottom center of the satellite shot above.

We didn't have the need for an emergency take out but we had the information if the weather went south or for any other reason.